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How COVID-19 safety rules could be different all over the state this summer

Some signage reminding Alaska Railroad customers that they need to wear masks while onboard and...
Some signage reminding Alaska Railroad customers that they need to wear masks while onboard and in the train station.(Taylor Clark)
Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 7:30 AM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - While traveler confidence and Alaska tourism business bookings are up and COVID-19 cases are down, the pandemic is still a factor and safety rules will still be in place. At this point, the rules will vary from business to business as travelers make their way here.

COVID-19 safety protocols will depend on what the individual municipality, the state, and the federal government are requiring of businesses. Right now, any state safety protocols are advisory. The same goes for many municipalities across the state.

President and CEO of the Alaska Travel Industry Association Sarah Leonard said right now, the best practice is to plan ahead to know what rules any business one is going to are.

“So you have tour operators, you have transportation companies, you have fishing lodges, you have hotels,” she said. “I think there are high-level safety guidelines that all businesses are adapting to, but you should really check in with your individual tour operator to see what kind of health and safety protocols they’re implementing.”

The federal mask mandate on public transportation services is what will be affecting businesses like boat, railroad, and bus tours in the state.

Currently, Vice President of Marketing and Customer Service for the Alaska Railroad Dale Wade said that is the big rule that is affecting their operations this summer. So far, he said it has not gotten in the way of people booking tickets.

“In fact, I think many people say it’s a plus,” Wade said. “They feel more comfortable in a masked environment than without.”

The Alaska Railroad is still not operating at 100% capacity according to Wade, even though they’re allowing more people on board than last summer.

Meanwhile, in Valdez, President of Stan Stephens Glacier and Wildlife Cruises Colleen Stephens said they also have to follow the federal mask mandate. But they’re booking to 100% capacity. Even though she said if they see a trip booking up and they have another vessel available, they’ll split passengers between the two.

“For example, this coming Sunday we’re running two boats instead of one to divide that passenger load,” Stephens said.

So while the pandemic is not quite over, things are looking much better for the summer tourism market with air traffic into the state higher and now cruise ships coming later in the season. Local businesses don’t believe that what rules they have to follow at this point will deter people from making the most of Alaska this year.

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